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Top 5 Most Overrated Places To Take Photos in Charleston, SC (Written By A Local)

Charleston is one of the most beautiful cities in the world according to the travel blogs. The historic downtown, the beaches, and the natural beauty make it a destination for hosts of weddings, engagements, and major amounts of tourists every year.

However, for those of us who live here and make a living here, we get to know the most iconic (and therefore most touristy) areas and generally do our best to avoid them if possible.

Being a full-time photographer in such a well-photographed city has given me experience with the best, worst, and the most overrated places for photoshoots in the area. While you may be familiar with some of these locations, others may be new to you. I'm not disagreeing that these are iconic places, these are simply my thoughts from the perspective of a photographer who has a passion for natural lighting and an aversion to large crowds (especially while trying to shoot).

That being said, here are my top 5 most overrated places to take photos in Charleston, SC

1. Pineapple Fountain

I just don't get it. There's people everywhere, and oftentimes there are people swimming in the water around the bottom of the fountain. There's also these huge manicured hedges around it that give it an overall just fake look. It's a big spot for proposals, too, and I'm just like why? You're guaranteed to be surrounded by random people you don't know, there's probably a half-naked child swimming in the water by your feet, and it's in my opinion one of the most over-photographed places in Charleston.

The most I'll use the pineapple fountain in my work is as a meeting place for my clients before walking to our actual photo spot. Other than that, it's just boring and I'm completely indifferent to it.

2. Hampton Park. 95% of it at least- there's one tiny little spot that I've found that's super jungly with beautiful light but other than that, it's super overrated.

Firstly, the light is not good. Yes, the trees are pretty, but the light for my style is not great- it's very flat and brown. You can't walk 10 feet without tripping over another photographer. Also, here's my hot take for you: gazebos are really annoying to take pictures of. First off, they're giant: you have to be super far away to even get them in the picture. Or you have to be up close, and then it's like this weird structure behind people that makes the background distracting and fragmented.

I'm also just not a fan of man-made lakes, which is one of the biggest features of Hampton Park. Water is very tricky to get in pictures the right way, especially if it's a flat lake. The light reflecting off of the water at the wrong time of day can absolutely ruin a photo. There's also streets and cars and houses on the other side of the road which makes it difficult to get a clean shot. When people who reach out to me about shooting in Hampton Park, I will gently try to persuade them to go somewhere else. Once again, I'll admit that the trees there are really pretty. But the light is hard to work with and it's generally too crowded for my taste.

3. Shem Creek.

I love visiting and hanging out there, exploring and going to restaurants. And I do love taking pictures there if it's one person for a small branding shoot. But if you're shooting with a bunch of people, the walkways on Shem are small and narrow and there's other people everywhere- drunk people, people with dogs, families on walks- so you're constantly having to stop to let them pass or pause in the middle of a picture. It's also sometimes more difficult for people to relax if they feel like they're being watched, and the popularity of Shem makes it a 100% possibility that someone will be watching our shoot no matter the time of day.

The railings on the walkway are also like 3 feet high, so they're awkward-looking and cut off the marsh view in the background. Part of what draws people to want to shoot at Shem Creek is that beautiful marsh landscape, but those railings completely cut it off. It's overall a tricky place to take photos, and while when the stars align and everything is perfect the photos can be stunning, the expectation is so different from the reality that I'm categorizing it as overrated.

4. Rainbow Row/Downtown In General

There's literally always parked cars and tons of people. Maybe if you do a sunrise session there might not be as many, but the reality is that people live there. Rainbow Row isn't just a historic, static landmark with ropes around it and a marked spot to take photos- those houses are people's homes. This means there will be traffic and people always coming and going. So not only is it one of the most over-photographed spots in Charleston, it's another case of the expectations of what you want the photos to look like vs the reality of the shooting location being dramatically different.

And honestly this can be the same thing for shooting around downtown in general. It's tricky because of all of the people and the cars, but if there's kids or dogs involved it can be especially overwhelming. This goes for sensitive people as well. It's very overstimulating trying to have your picture taken when there's constantly cars and people passing by and making noise. Kids start crying because it's loud or they get too hot, and dogs are distracted by literally every little change in environment so it's hard to get the relaxed, charming family photo you were hoping for.

Not to mention, you're also very aware that you're being watched- especially in the more touristy areas. And if you don't like having your picture taken, you may already be feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable. You don't want to then feel like you're being watched or overstimulated by the million things happening around you. It can be a lot for someone who's sensitive, as well as little kids and animals.

5. The Beach

Shooting at the beach is kind of hit or miss with me. I either love it or hate it. If I'm shooting with people who want everything to be perfect and have perfectly posed pictures, it's difficult. Truly, for those people, the beach is a nightmare. The wind is blowing, your hair is going everywhere, if you've got kids, the kids are running all over the place, and the sun is blinding when it's not at sunrise and sunset. Also, the more people you have, the more out of hand it can get. Let's just say the beach is not the place to go if you want professional headshots or not-a-hair-out-of-place engagement photos.

But I've also done beach shoots where people don't want anything super posed, where they just run around and play in the sand and the water, and those shoots end up being amazing. If you go to the beach with a very fun and playful mindset, then we're going to have a great time. But if you're going with the intention of getting a perfect picture to frame and put on your wall where your hair looks great and you're bronzed and glowing from your beach trip, then you're going to be very disappointed.


So there you have it, here are my top 5 most overrated places to take photos in Charleston. Like I said before, this is coming from my own personal experience and what works best for my style of photography. This may not be your same experience, and it's true that these places are well-photographed for a reason so I'm not hating on the locations themselves.

I'll probably do a follow-up to this post where I talk about the top 5 most underrated places to take photos to give you all some alternatives. But until then, just know that if you want to book a session with me you'll be shooting at some pretty cool, under the radar locations around Charleston.

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